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15 Apr 2020

Radio Free Asia

Laos: Workers strike over unpaid wages and failure to follow government's order to combat COVID-19 outbreak at Chinese garment factory

“Nearly 300 Lao Workers Strike Over Unpaid Wages at Chinese Garment Factory”, 14 April 2020

Hundreds of workers staged a protest… at a Chinese garment factory in the Lao capital, saying the firm did not pay their wages for March and ignored government orders to close the factory to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nearly 300 workers rallied in front of the Laos Comfort Garment Manufacturing Co. factory in the Nasaythong district of Vientiane on April 10, the date they were promised their paycheck for March. The firm had postponed payday until April 21.

“They didn’t pay us the money that we have worked for in March,” a female garment worker told RFA…

“This company is not fair and not transparent like other companies and they did not comply with the government rules,” she said.

She told RFA the company did not heed Lao government to stop working from March 31 to April 19 as part of efforts to halt the coronavirus outbreak.

“On the orders of the government, all workers from other companies stopped working and followed orders to stay home, but this Chinese company did not allow that,” she said.

RFA’s Lao Service tried to contact the company for a comment on the dispute, but received no reply.

An official from the Lao Ministry of Commerce and Trade told RFA that he was unaware of the protest, but that government policy allowed some exceptions to the March 31-April 19 shutdown measures.

“Some garment factories requested to stay open in order to fulfill previous orders, and the trade ministry allowed them to do so, but on the condition that they protect the health of workers. If not, we will close them,” he said.

A Lao Federation of Workers official said he was unaware of the protest and was awaiting new orders from the government once the coronavirus situation had eased up.

In 2017 the workers at Laos Comfort Garment Manufacturing Co. staged a protest over the firm’s alleged failure to pay a government mandated minimum wage and for taking large deductions from paychecks…